Archive for the 'Mammals' Category

05
Sep
22

Wild Ken Hill

One of the best places in the county to see Grey Partridge is Wild Ken Hill between Snettisham and Heacham in the West of Norfolk. Book yourself on a ‘Big Picture Tour’ for a trip around the estate and learn what good work the WKH team are doing on the farm and in the rewilding area to look after our wildlife and produce our food sustainably.

01
Aug
22

For the love of Dolphins

Sailing through the Summer Isles off Ullapool last month we were on a glass mirror sea passing rocky outcrops punctuated with Arctic Terns. Young were pestering parents for their next meal … nothing in nature varies in that respect. As we pulled into a sea cave a Common Sandpiper fell from one of the ledges and proclaimed its objections to us being there with a diagnostic call and fluttering flight.

Moving further out from the coast the skipper sighted dolphins ahead. It wasn’t long before we were surrounded by playful, accommodating and very very beautiful Common Dolphins.

They are not there, then they are, then they are gone again. They bow ride and leap from the water. They watch you from under crystal clear water as they swim alongside. There’s something quite enigmatic and mysterious about Common Dolphins. I just love them.

03
Jun
22

Manic Magic

When you go to the Isles of Scilly birding it can be very weather dependent.

Before we arrived at the end of May it seemed all and sundry was arriving on the islands. Then landing alongside our cargo of excited guests arrived a stiff Northerly. It immediately blocked any further migrating birds. That is until the last day.

We had resigned ourselves to the fact we were not going to see much last Tuesday; our last day on the islands. Although the weather had been pleasantly warm and blue skies had prevailed it wasn’t the weather we were hoping for. We had seen the islands at their very best; full of flowers and colour. Even a few good birds did put in an appearance although they were few and far between. Places on aircraft and ship had been booked to relocate us all back to reality and we were making our way to Juliet’s Garden (known to those in the know as Juliet’s Panties) for a final lunch. As we walked along Porthloo Lane I was recounting tales of Yellow Billed Cuckoo’s and traffic jam creating twitches, when I heard a sound; a call of a bird that I knew well, but for a minute I couldn’t place it. The penny then dropped. I searched the top of the elms from where the sound emanated and there they were; four Bee Eaters.

The mood instantly changed in the group. News was immediately put out and people began to arrive. As I stared at the colourful Europeans something in the distance caught my focus. We had not seen a raptor all week and there was one now sailing across my field of view. A long tail and narrow wings confirmed a harrier. All grey; a male. Scillies, end of May. This should have been a Pallid or at worst a Montague’s. No. The wings were too broad and the dark wedges in the primaries too thick. The structure and flight were all wrong for a ‘rare’ harrier. This was a Hen Harrier. A Hen Harrier that had no right to be here at this time of the year. We watched it float high over Hugh town and out to St Agnes.

The Bee Eaters floated off high to the North. This was jat as well. I wouldn’t have liked to have left four Bee Eaters showing well … even for lunch.

Lunch was good. It always is at Juliet’s. We bade goodbye to some catching flights while others stayed to chat waiting for the Scillonian III to beckon. I relaxed in the warm sunshine and stretched out my legs and bathed my face in the heat. Staring at the sky I spotted another raptor. A small falcon. This was a bird on a mission. It was climbing, and climbing high. Compact, pale and as un-kestrel like as any small falcon could be. A probable Red Footed Falcon was leaving Scilly … vertically. No scope (packed away), the light and distance not on our side, it has to stay a probable.

The day however wasn’t done.

Leaving on the ship, a Minke Whale put in an appearance just outside the islands. Later a Harbour Porpoise rolled through a flat calm sea. At half way, marked by the Wolf light, a pod of Common Dolphin gave a ‘leaping show’ like no others can. However, what happened next had my jaw dropping.

As the ship steamed up the South coast of Cornwall we started to see flocks of Manx Shearwaters. Small flocks to start with, then bigger ones of a hundred or more birds. Then great ribbons of birds strewn across the sea in great discarded strings. Flocks encircled the Scillionian and at times it seemed as if the ship was sailing through shearwater soup. We estimated that in the last hour of sailing we saw Circa 10,000 Manx Shearwaters. the largest number I have seen of this species anywhere.

It all goes to show it ain’t over ’till the fat lady sings’.

05
Apr
22

Hare’s breadth

This little girl passed close by the other day. Tania said she looked as though she’d had her nose in her mums makeup bag!

05
Mar
22

Sabre toothed Deer

This little lad came close enough to photograph the other day. Just look at those retractable tusks!

31
Dec
21

Happy New Year

This year has been a strange one. A year of two halves and contrasts. The first half, once again like 2020, became a period of sedentary incapability. Tours and trips had to be cancelled. Unpicking the arrangements with boat operators and hotels is never easy. Indeed, sadly some of them financially went to ‘the wall’ as their business slumped.

I always said that because of the way I run the business, and my financial affairs, WT&E would front out anything thrown at it no matter how long the lockdown, without the help of government handouts. Little did I know that the business levels in the second half of the year would bounce back so strongly and so quickly.

Guests were keen to get back into the countryside and I couldn’t blame them, having been isolated and restricted for so long. However, safety of guests was paramount. Local day tours were conducted by guests following in their own vehicle and longer tours when we shared a vehicle were carried out against a background of testing by both guests and me. As a consequence, we had some good local tours and some effortlessly successful tours away.

A good relationship this year with ‘Wild Ken Hill’ and involvement in a small way with some of the good things they are trying to do there was very pleasing. Long may their rewilding and regenerative agricultural development continue.

Still no trips abroad. I feel it would be foolish to commit to these yet. To do so in the current environment is inviting difficulty and potential unnecessary expense. Maybe in 2023. The wilds of Australia, North and South America will all still be there; as will the Atlantic Islands. All on our agenda.

A single new bird for me during the course of the year was the Syke’s Warbler on Blakeney Point in September. The supporting cast of other birds, dragonflies, butterflies and cetaceans were many, but perhaps the pick of the crop was the Sei Whale in the Firth of Forth.

The accompanying photo I took of a Sanderling last week, a bird renowned for running up and down beaches, perhaps summarises the year; a lot of backwards and forwards.

All in all a good year. 2022 promises even more. I hope above all hope the coming year gives you your needs and desires. Happy New Year.

27
Dec
21

Sealed

This young male Grey Seal was hauled out on a lonely Norfolk beach this week. He was resting and we left without disturbing him.

18
Sep
21

Wild Boar

I have just been reading a facebook page which had a slice of video on it that stated the film was taken in Norfolk and it featured a wild boar.

I have no doubt the person that posted the video did so in good faith. In fact it featured an Iron Age Pig rather than a Wild Boar. Iron Age Pigs are hybrids between Wild Boar any any breed of domesticated pig. They are used by land owners that are rewilding their land. Several farms in Norfolk are now beginning to put land aside for rewilding. They use pigs, usually Tamworths, but a few use Iron Age, alongside Exmoor ponies and Cattle. The turnover of the land by the pigs and the browsing and grazing by the cattle and horses, alongside wild deer, keeps the land from ‘wooding-up’. The bushy, scrubby landscape that ensues is ideal for such species such as Nightingale, Turtle Dove and Warblers like Whitethroat and Blackcap.

There are no Wild Boar at large in Norfolk as far as I’m aware. Although I did investigate a couple of reports about 10 years ago that didn’t come to anything. However, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again … anythings possible.

11
Aug
21

Leporids

A few Leporids around on tours the other day.

23
Jul
21

Odds and Sods

A few photos from this spring and summer, taken on tours around the county and country, that I haven’t had time to post previously …




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